Business Network

Network Management Suites: Airwave or IMC?

Network Management Suites available today through HPE


Network management has been around since the dawn of networking. In the early days, companies like Cisco and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) would create their own proprietary management software to manage their switching products (i.e. Procurve Manager was originally an HPE-only tool until it was updated with limited 3rd party support).


This all changed in the early 2000’s when a protocol called SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol) was standardized and introduced to switches. This allowed the management plane of the switch to communicate live statistics such as response times, CPU utilization, etc., back to a centralized network management solution in an open-standards manner. It also allowed network admins to have a “single pane of glass” into the basic statistics of their multi-vendor network. SNMP has gone through various revisions to this day but the basic principle remains the same – allowing network admins to manage a multivendor network environment from one tool.



How They’re the Same:


Airwave and IMC both utilize SNMP to communicate with 3rd party devices, and both have an extensive list in the thousands of devices that are supported from 3rd party vendors from Cisco to Netgear.



How They’re Different:


The product differentiation comes down to how these tools will be utilized by the Network Admins:Weighing the options



Airwave is directed more at “campus” environments (think carpeted office space, K-12, higher ed campuses, etc.) due to how easy it is to use compared to the more daunting setup involved in IMC. Another reason for this positioning is because Airwave is a much more capable wireless management tool, giving customers much better insight into the health of their wireless network then IMC can provide.


An example of this would be the VisualRF plugin in Airwave. VisualRF provides a real-time view of their RF coverage and client positioning. This visual tool allows network engineers to see their actual RF coverage inside of a building, giving them a good idea of any existing gaps in coverage that they might need to add an additional AP to support. Airwave is licensed per device on the network, and those licenses give you access to the full software suite.



Intelligent Management Center, or IMC, is committed to being a true “nuts and bolts” engineer tool, even allowing access to IMC’s APIs, giving customers the freedom to program their own modules within the platform. For this reason, HPE has started positioning this as more of a Datacenter focused “NOC” (networks operation center) tool.


Administrators can get much more in depth with the types of SNMP traps, alarms/alerting, and even the types of information that can be reported on with the tool. The initial setup is much more intensive than an Airwave deployment, and the interface is much less user friendly than Airwave, However, you can get extremely detailed real-time information out of the IMC platform – especially when it’s monitoring Aruba (ProCurve) or Comware switches. An example of this would be the QoS Manager plugin, which gives network administrators the ability to define a new global policy or make changes to an existing QoS policy and push those changes out to the network.


Currently, the only wireless management that IMC supports is for the legacy HPE wireless solutions MSM and Unified Wireless, but an “Airwave plugin” is in the works to bridge the gap to include Aruba wireless deployments. IMC is sold as modular software – the base platform is very capable; but to get some specific functionality, such as the QoS Management, you need to license the module. IMC is also licensed by device count in the base platform; however, some of the modules have different licensing schemes.


HPE has committed to continued product development on both platforms. As of right now, there are no early warning signs of one product cannibalizing the other. Choosing which product is rightyou’re your environment really depends on what you are hoping to get out of the platform. If you’re looking for something that’s easy to use with awesome built-in reporting, look into Airwave. If, on the other hand, you need an extremely customizable tool that can report on virtually any network statistic under the sun, IMC is your ticket. If you’re not sure which is the better fit for your organization, we are happy to sit down, discuss your needs, and dive deeper into the platforms in order to make the appropriate recommendation.


Sean Mason